Part of a series of occasional articles highlighting summer destinations and activities along Massachusetts byways.
MARSHFIELD — The inviting waves of overlapping music, the metallic clank of rides along the midway, and the intermittent crunches of demolition-derby cars careening into one another (followed by roars of enthralled spectators).
On a warm summer night, an old-fashioned country fair comes alive.
The Marshfield Fair, which opened Aug. 17 and concludes Sunday, offers a sensory feast: a complete lineup of fair essentials such as funnel cakes, livestock contests, and tons of rides including — for those seeking to win romantic brownie points with that special someone — a Ferris wheel.
“I’ve been coming here since I was a little boy,” said Steve Silvia, 39, of Holbrook, who watched as his two young sons competed in a classic fair game: a race to see who could power a boat to the finish line by shooting it with a water gun.
While his childhood visits usually revolved around the biggest and scariest rides he could find, Silvia said his sons — Steven, 8, and Shawn, 3 — are captivated by playing games and winning prizes. Most games cost just one or three tickets to play, but the Silvia family was stocked with more than 70 tickets.
“I brought $300 to spend, so we’re doing everything,” Silvia said.
There is certainly plenty to do.
On Thursday night, hundreds of attendees packed the fairgrounds, off Route 3A in this South Shore town. They listened to local musicians, screamed joyously as they sat in rides, and scarfed down everything from ice cream to Italian sausages.
The fair, which has been running since the mid-1800s, is a bridge of sorts between the region’s summer fair season and robust fall events that include the Big E (Sept. 14 to Sept. 30) and the Topsfield Fair (Sept. 28 to Oct. 8).
One favorite among the younger crowd in Marshfield, including Steven Silvia, is the Magic Maze, a bright room full of flashing pink, blue, and purple lights that bounce off walls covered in mirrors. Parents watched, cheering on their children as they worked their way — bouncing off mirrored wall after mirrored wall — through the maze and, finally, down the slide at its conclusion.
“My favorite is the Thunderbolt,” said Max Bates, 12, of Scituate, clutching the goldfish he had just won from a ring-toss game. He was describing the classic ride that whips participants around a circular track on rotating cars.
“I’ve been on it at least five times,” Max added.
For those less consumed with winning prizes and spending money on rides, the center stage offers a steady stream of entertainment. The stage hosts a popular magic show three times each night, before inviting fairgoers up to work the crowd themselves.
Karaoke becomes a colorful draw at 8 p.m., as attendees croon their favorite tunes.
The musical lineup included versions of Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” as well as a half-hearted attempt by Rusty and Kevin, two fair volunteers letting loose after a long day of work, at the Backstreet Boys’ “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely.” The men, each with a beer in hand, were cheered on by a crowd of co-workers.
During the demolition derby, droves of people packed the fence lining the track to watch helmeted drivers of rundown cars slam into each other.
The 4H livestock exhibit included cows, ducks, chickens, goats, alpacas, and sheep.
“They are so affectionate,” said Melissa Krusell, 18, of Duxbury, as she paraded around her two 500-pound Belted Galloway cows named Bam-Bam and Brady. Unlike other cattle breeds, Krussell’s grow a fluffy, sheeplike fur on their midsections.
“You can cuddle with them and get to know their personalities,” she said. “They’re just like dogs.”
As the animals’ owners led them along the edge of the fair’s large pen, a toddler wandered up to the fence, apprehensively clutching her pink dress as she approached a hay-covered black sheep. Moments later, the sheep erupted in a “bahhhh” that sent the young girl gleefully squealing back into the arms of her mother.
Many parents agreed that while they still love climbing into the rides and munching on cotton candy and popcorn, the main draw remains the joyous looks on the faces of their children.
Silvia glanced over at his two sons, giggling as they competed to see who could blow the toy trumpets they won as game prizes more loudly.
“This right here is what makes you happy,” he said.
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